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Cablegate: Senegal: Wade Seeks to Undermine Local Governments

VZCZCXRO4261
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #0080 0211642
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211642Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3652
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS DAKAR 000080

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, DRL,INR/AA
PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINS KDEM ECON SG
SUBJECT: Senegal: Wade seeks to undermine local governments

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On January 18, President Abdoulaye Wade
characterized Senegal's decentralization process as a failure after
which he outlined a slew of reforms among which he wants to
eliminate the positions of Governors and create local legislative
assemblies with clearly delineated jurisdictions. Opposition
leaders judge this as a ploy to undo the results of the March 2009
local elections that gave victory to the opposition in most of the
major cities of the country. END SUMMARY.

Ministers will replace Governors
--------------------------------
2. (SBU) Senegal has 14 administrative regions each headed by a
Governor who are appointed by the Head of State and must be top
ranked civil servants who have spent their entire career in
administrative affairs. They represent the Head of State and the
cabinet in their administrative regions and as such are the chiefs
of all local civil servants in their areas and are responsible for
law and order. As civil servants, they are non partisan and enjoy a
fair degree of independence under the law. Wade's proposal is to
replace governors with Resident Ministers, i.e. partisan political
leaders. This could have a tremendous impact on the organization of
elections as Resident Ministers will be more inclined to choose
partisan staff to man polling stations and bend the rules to help
the ruling party win. In all likelihood they would also favor their
party in local social, economic and security decisions they might
make.

Emasculate opposition mayors
----------------------------
3. (SBU) In addition to appointed Resident Ministers, Wade said that
each region will also have an elected President and an elected
assembly that will replace current regional councils he deems
inefficient. If passed by the National Assembly, this reform will
represent a serious challenge for opposition mayors who will have to
contend with multiple political decision-making centers. A hostile
regional assembly could also use its legislative powers to tie the
hands of a mayor. Limited resources available to a region, if
shared among three local government entities, will increase their
dependence vis-`-vis subsidies from the central government. Mayors
of larger and richer cities like Dakar could see their status
decline and thus give them less to present to the electorate as
their achievements. This reform would also provide Wade's party
with the opportunity to give jobs to a larger number of leaders in
his coalition. For the main opposition Socialist Party these
reforms have all been concocted to, "create a legal framework to
confiscate land and take away power from duly elected mayors."
Opposition leaders see this project as dangerous for both political
stability and national cohesion as it could lead to ethnic and
regional identities becoming divisive defining factors at the
expense of Senegal's impressive national identity.

4. (SBU) COMMENT: By proposing these new political entities
President Wade hopes to increase his ability to dole out patronage
and increase competition within the opposition Benno coalition in
the hopes of undermining their unity. This project could also serve
as a political offer to the Casamance without appearing to have
capitulated before the secessionists of the Movement of Democratic
Forces of Casamance (MFDC) whose central demand has always been more
say in the management of the affairs of their region.

BERNICAT

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